The mission of Inserm's ethics committee is to manage reflection on ethical issues raised by medical scientific research and health research as it is implemented within the Institute.
The development of biomedical research leads to necessary questioning on respect of the human person, questioning that extends to the field of animal testing associated with this research. The discoveries that are made and the applications that can stem from them also raise many questions.
That is why Inserm's ethics committee was set up in 2000, with a vocation of being a full-fledged stakeholder in the dialogue between the medical and scientific community and society as a whole.
As a committee of a research body, its objectives and its operating procedures are closely associated with the practical and daily life of Inserm: it provides its support to the Institute's personnel in order to identify and incorporate ethics issues right from the design stage of their research projects and to give thought to their practices. In time, it will also have the mission of federating the work in ethics of the research bodies in the life and health sciences grouped together at Aviesan. These aspects make for a body that is original and separate from the Comité consultatif national d’éthique (CCNE-French National Ethics Advisory Committee).
The missions of Inserm's ethics committee
The main missions of Inserm's ethics committee are:
- conduct and develop thought on the ethical aspects associated with research practices
- anticipate, through monitoring and advisory work, the conditions for implementing innovative research as well as the methods for accompanying them from an ethical standpoint, in particular with regards to their impacts and consequences;
- make research personnel aware of the importance of ethics, in order to guarantee a correct balance between their intellectual freedom and their duties with regards to the Institute and society ;
- formulate recommendations concerning the rules pertaining to research ethics and deontology, in liaison with the researcher's responsibility to the Institute and to society, especially in his or her activities in evaluating, and valorizing research and expertise;
- associate Inserm's various partners with shared thought on the major themes in public health that relate to the choices of society;
- foster appropriation by all of the stakes in responsible ethical questioning, through local initiatives and significant institutional events, as well as through the spreading of knowledge ;
- participate in organizing public debates, and if necessary encourage them, in the emerging fields of biomedical innovation.
In order to best fulfill these objectives, the committee in the middle term will rely on a network of relay persons in ethics. This network will have the role to contribute to the monitoring of ethics and to raising the awareness of the Institute's employees, as closely as possible to the field.
The committee will also work on creating interfaces with:
- Inserm training workshops: as ethics is an integral part of all of the research carried out at Inserm, all training workshops should include a session devoted to ethics issues raised by the theme of the workshop. Ethics questioning should also be addressed during the welcome day for new personnel.
- Collective expertise: the committee should be seized systematically for its opinion on the questions treated by collective expertise and the methodology used (in particular, the forming of the group of experts retained). The committee could also be consulted on the methods for remitting the results.
- Patients’ associations: a representative of the Patients’ Association Liaison Group (GRAM) already sits on the Comité d’évaluation éthique de l’Inserm / Institutional Review Board (CEEI/IRD) of Inserm; it would be useful if the same were true for the Ethics Committee.
- The scientific integrity delegation (DIS): this delegation has in particular for mission to carry out ongoing thought on scientific integrity and to participate in the dissemination of best research practices, an approach that complements that of the ethics committee.
- Other ethics committees of research bodies: Inserm's Ethics Committee will work as closely as possible with the ethics committees of the other research bodies. This practice had been implemented with the CEEI/IRB for research conducted in the countries in the South, but has recently fallen to the wayside. This will be reactivated at Aviesan.
Chairman: Hervé Chneiweiss
The committee includes about fifteen members appointed for a period of 3 years, with renewal possible for its most active members, as certain skills are rare, especially when they are solicited on a voluntary basis.
At least half of the members do not belong directly to Inserm, and at least half are not biologists or doctors. Gender parity is respected. The fields of expertise of the members are complementary and cover biomedical research in humans, animal testing, regulations on health products and processes, and the economics and sociology of health.
The committee includes foreign French-speaking personalities.